23 February 2018 | Esmond Bradley Martin, 76, an American conservationist who was stabbed to death in his home in Nairobi, Kenya, is said to have been in a legal battle with a powerful government minister before he died.

British daily The Times, reported earlier this month that Martin had been battling efforts by Fred Matiang’i, the country’s interior minister, to build a large church next to his home. Matiang’i is a member of the Adventist Church and a close ally of President Kenyatta. The Times reported that Matiang’i was named in court papers as one of the two developers behind the church next to Martin’s mansion.

Law enforcement personnel said they were investigating whether Martin’s murder may have been related to his work or whether it was the result of a violent robbery. The Times claims that authorities “declined to comment on whether Martin’s death could have been linked to the (construction of the) church.” Cash and property deeds appear to have been stolen at the time of the murder.

Before his murder, Martin had battled Matiang’i’s construction plans through the Karen Langata District Association (KLDA) claiming developers were granted planning permission based on “false information” provided to the National Environment Management Agency. Wealthy white settlers, foreigners and Kenyan business people are members of the KLDA.

Three days after Martin died, Zablon Mabea, Kenya’s former land commissioner, was also named in an order to cease construction issued by the National Environment Tribunal. Builders are said to have ignored the order and continued building.

An academic and a key investigator into illegal wildlife trade, Martin was also heir to a Pittsburgh steel fortune. In his work he helped expose ivory markets in Africa and Asia.

The Adventist Church in Kenya has over 840,000 members. Some members of the church are influential nationally. Chief Justice David Maraga of Kenya’s Supreme Court is an Adventist.

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